Anglican

Smoke… and… Mirrors

 

Smoke and Mirrors – noun 

an explanation or description that is not true or not complete and is used to hide the truth about a situation:

This week the ABC ran a piece highlighting the Bishop of Wangaratta, John Parkes’ enthusiasm in regards to conducting same-sex blessings before he lays down his Bishop’s pastoral staff at the end of the year. I thought this was rather strange as last year the Anglican Bishops (and I assume +Parkes was present) made an historic agreement, an agreement that states (Responding to Recent Changes in the Marriage Act)

We, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, affirm the following.

Guiding principles

1. The doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. If we as a Church are to change this doctrine to permit same-sex marriage, the appropriate mechanism is through the framework of the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia. Bishops should give leadership in demonstrating trust in this framework as the way to move forward together, recognising that this will require care, persistence and generosity. The bishops commit to working together to manifest and maintain unity, as we together discern the truth.

Thus the Bishops agree that they will uphold the traditional view of marriage and if any change to this doctrine is to be attempted, due process will be followed.

Thus the Bishop of Wangaratta publicly stating his intention to “bless” homosexual couples who are legally married in the eyes of the Australian marriage act seems to be in breach of this agreement and in fact I would say that it obviously is. Of course, technically speaking he is not in breach of the agreement, technically speaking, he would not be marrying homosexual couples; “blessing the persons and not the relationship”; so technically speaking he is still upholding the doctrine of the Anglican Church which states that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman.

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

The practice of clergy conducting same-sex blessings are:

Based on a lie – the lie being that God approves of sexual expression couples of the same gender when Scripture is abundantly clear that He does not. In fact, every time homosexual sexual expression is mentioned, the context is always negative. Clergy who conduct such blessings are being false witnesses, they are saying God’s blesses what God’s Word says is sin. Scripture is clear, God will not bless, sustain, and encourage couples in sin.

Based on a false Gospel – a gospel of no repentance. Scripture is clear that homosexual sexual expression is evidential of rebellion against God and sign of God giving people over to judgment as a result of the aforementioned rebellion. Romans 1:18-32 is crystal clear on this. However, by ‘blessings such a union, Anglican clergy, (Bishop or otherwise) ‘blessing’  in essence, are sending a message that says the gospel consists of “come as you are and stay as you are”; which is not the message of the Gospel.

Are deceptive –  Anglican bishops who find it desirous to conduct same-sex blessings of couples who are married in the eyes of the state, know that what they are doing is not conducting a marriage. They know that what the Bible teaches regarding marriage will do all they can to push the boundaries but not technically breach them so that they cannot be held to account. Thus these so-called “blessings” will be treated as a marriage but technically will not be a marriage (because technically, they are already married). By all human appearances the services will appear to be like a wedding, they will be treated as a wedding, but technically will not be a wedding.

Are coercive History has shown us that in every denomination, every issue of a Biblically untenable nature that revisionists have desired and have had granted to them has led to coercion from revisionists towards those who disagree when they are in positions of authority. They use the rhetoric of being “a broad church”, but their diversity and tolerance is only extended to those who agree with them and/or acquiesce to their position.

Example – The Church of Scotland:  Decades ago, the General Assembly of the Kirk passed the ordinance that women could be ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The shift went from a woman could be ordained to, a woman should be ordained. When the decision came to pass, the official view in time moved from women should be ordained to women must be ordained.

Notice the progression:

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

So in practice, those who in good conscience do not hold to women’s ordination are excluded from the discernment process for ordination within the Church of Scotland.

This revisionist tactic is unstated, yet it is far from subtle, though is not unique to the Scottish Kirk. It occurs within the Anglican Church. When women’s ordination came about there was the same talk from revisionists saying “oh yes, those disagree are free to disagree, etc” and, “It won’t divide the church”, etc. However it has divided the Anglican Church, and women’s ordination is often used by revisionists bishops as a way of preventing orthodox clergy coming into their dioceses, thus in practice, clergy are not free to disagree if they wish to serve in the said dioceses. An orthodox Anglican cleric/candidate approaches a diocese about being licensed/ordained/accepted for discernment. All a revisionist bishop need to do end the process before it begins is to ask them what they think of Women’s ordination.

If they don’t agree with Women’s ordination they are told:

“Sorry, I don’t think it is God’s will for you to serve in our diocese as it would not be a good fit for you”.

It is the same coercive progression:

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

Although women’s ordination is in my view, not a first-order issue, there is every reason to believe that if the Anglican Church of Australia goes down the same road with same-sex blessings (which is a gospel issue), the same tactic will be employed. An orthodox Anglican cleric/candidate approaches a diocese about being licensed/  being ordained/accepted for discernment. All a revisionist bishop need to do end the process is to ask them “What is your view of same-sex blessings?” or “Do you think you could work in a diocese that conducts same-sex blessings?” Instead of the onus being on the Bishop for endorsing a view and praxis that is antithetical to Scripture, it is placed on the person being asked the question and if they say they don’t agree, predictably they will be told…(here it comes)

“Sorry, I don’t think it is God’s will for you to serve in our diocese as it would not be a good fit for you”.

We could… therefore… We should… therefore… We must… therefore… you must.

Revisionists bishops who resort to this tactic may say, “technically I have done no wrong”; Bishop Parkes may think or state that he will not be violating the Bishop’s agreement by stating his intention to conduct same-sex blessings, and say “Technically, I have done no wrong”.

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

Remind me of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 30:20

This is the way of an adulteress:
    she eats and wipes her mouth
    and says, “I have done no wrong.”

 

Smoke… and… Mirrors.

 

 

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Doing the Thinking For Them

I have a hunch that when it comes to Christians proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to non-Christians, part of our reluctance to share the Gospel with them is that we assume one of four things about the non-Christian. They will:

  1. Be offended
  2. Not Understand
  3. Experience discomfort
  4. Combination of all three

So we do the thinking for them and decide not to say anything.

I wonder if we carry this assumption into our gathering together to worship God in Word and Sacrament, that when we invite them to an outreach event, or even to our regular Sunday services that make those same assumptions. That the non-Christian will:

  1. Be offended
  2. Not Understand
  3. Experience discomfort
  4. Combination of all three

I remember many years ago now, an article was produced by a well known Evangelical Anglican body here in my country (Australia) and the article stated that we should, in essence, drop any language that may be deemed too exclusive. So words like ‘lecturn’, ‘pulpit’, ‘pew’ should go. The reason we should do this is for the sake of the outsider feeling, we don’t want to make them uncomfortable. So everything we do at church should be as normal and regular for the non-Christian as possible.

However, do we really assume that de-churched or even un-churched people are going to be uncomfortable by terms such as ‘sermon’ or ‘lectern’ or offended by such terminology?

Once I dropped the word ‘verse’ when referring to Scripture, I replaced it with the word ‘sentence’ in order to try and be contemporary. Even though I thought changing ‘verse’ to ‘sentence’ felt artificial and strange, I was acting on the assumption that the non-Christian would find the word ‘verse’ archaic or discomforting so that assumption prevailed over common sense and I did it anyway. It was a dumb move!

I also think the same when it comes to changing other terms. I had never heard of a lectern or even seen one before I went to church, I did not know what a baptismal font was, or what a prayer book was, nor did I know what the Lord’s table was. But it did not turn me off. I assumed that this was part and parcel of church and what Christians did and said.

Imagine this scenario:

Hi welcome to chu…our gathering…ahhhmmmmm…I mean our meeting…our family (no that sounds like a cult) ahhmmm our fellowshi…our assembly…arghh! (Starts again). Welcome to church everyone. If you would like to turn page (inset page no.) of the Prayer boo…I mean ahhh the book that has prayers in it. We are going to pra…talk to God…and ask give him thanks…that means we are going to thank God…he is the one who made us and created us…

  Skip forward in service…

 We are now going to sing a hymn…I mean song…it is like a song but the music is really quite bad and we don’t believe in syncopation…and then Morag is going to come up and is going to lead us in prayer…I mean ahhh…she is going to talk to God out the front in the lecte…pulpi…she is going to talk to God and stand in front of this wooden stand that I am standing behind right now.

Skip forward in the service…

We are going to have our Bible readi…if you would like to pick up that big thick book that has the words Holy Bible on it, and turn to (insert book, chapter, verse) and after this our Minister…no he is not a politician, he is not that kind of minister, our pasto…the man who runs the show…not that it is a show…the minister and he is going to give the serm…ahhhmmmm…I mean the talk…ahhhmmmm yes I know I am talking to you know…he is going to explain what that passage…I mean…ahhhmmm… he is going to explain that pericope…explain those words that were read out of that big thick book that has the words Holy Bible on the front cover.. ,and then he is going to preach…I mean teach…I mean explain how it applies to us so that we can…he is going to unpack it for us so that we do life together! Ahhhmmmm yes I know that the expression “do life” is ridiculous…what I mean is…”

Coming from a non-Christian family when I first attended an Anglican church service as a young teen service I did not know what anything was, what the words meant or what things were called. But the church would really have done me a disservice if they did not use the terminology that is indicative of church and terms such as propitiation, lectern, pew, sermon, etc. It is how I learned. It is how everybody learns. All these little things I found attractive, and especially the message of Christ crucified and risen from the dead, along with the people I met whose lives had been transformed by Him.

Non-Churched people are not stupid (not that I am implying that the article I read years ago was suggesting this), they will expect Church to be different. We should be clear of course, but I think to ‘over-contemporise’ will come across by the un-churched as us being try-hards. We don’t need to do the thinking for them.

 

The Essence of Unity

Church of Ireland dean of Waterford Maria Jansson when speaking about the attendance of two Church of Ireland Bishop’s at GAFCON asked the question:

“How can Bishops Harold Miller and Ferran Glenfield reconcile the vows they made at their consecrations as bishops to ‘maintain and further the unity of the church’ with their support of Gafcon which stridently endeavours to undermine that very unity?”

Often those who are opposed to GAFCON state that GAFCON promotes division and is schismatic, yet these sorts of comments fail to acknowledge or perhaps even understand that the unity that disciples of the Lord Jesus are called to maintain is theological unity, not organisational unity. There is a very big difference between the two.

Organisational unity stresses a unity that is based on the most common denominator, which can be expressed as  “All views are legitimate, what matters is that we are united as Anglicans”.

As I wrote this I was very cognisant of an article written by the Rev David Short (who preached at GAFCON )  fourteen years ago entitled Crisis in koinonia. He writes:

There are now two competing unities in Anglicanism: one regards Scripture as God’s sovereign word written, the other as the repository of the symbols of our faith; one names Christ as the unique and only savior of the world—meaning there is salvation in no-one else, the other sees Christ as the unique saviour for them only. One sees mission primarily in terms of the proclamation of the gospel, of conversion to Christ from sin through repentance and faith, of lifelong growing discipleship, of presenting people mature in Christ for the last judgment. The other sees mission in terms of extending the church (meaning ‘denomination’), of making the world a better place, of providing religious services, of helping people connect with their inherent spirituality, of affirming people in their lifestyle preferences, of boldly reflecting the cultural zeitgeist of tolerance, pluralism and inclusivity. 

David Short’s article also reveals the heart of the reason why there are two competing unities within Anglicanism, and it due to the different religions that exist within Anglicanism.

At the risk of oversimplifying, what lies beneath the rift within Anglicanism are two different religions: two different Gods, two different views of the fall, sin, salvation, humanity, the cross of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the coming judgment and the mission of the church. Blessing same sex unions is one manifestation of a deeper conflict in the divergent movement of two irreconcilable theological tectonic plates.”

When it comes to unity, God’s Word is not silent about true Christian unity. The Apostle Paul when writing to the Ephesian Christians says:I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

What stands out to me is that our Apostle Paul exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to be eager to maintain the unity they already have, not create unity. And the unity that they are to maintain has already been established by God.

The context of the passage in Ephesians (the previous chapters), reveals to us the way God established the unity that we are to maintain.  True unity cannot be created by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator amongst all those who profess to be Anglicans. True unity was created by God when he made a new humanity through Jesus’ propitiatory and substitutionary death on the cross. This is the essence of true unity and it is this unity that we are to maintain.

So back to the question raised by Church of Ireland dean of Waterford, Maria Jansson:

“How can Bishops Harold Millerand Ferran Glenfield reconcile the vows they made at their consecrations as bishops to ‘maintain and further the unity of the church’ with their support of Gafcon which stridently endeavours to undermine that very unity?”

My answer to her is, “Easily – because the unity that they promised to maintain at their consecrations is the unity that is established by God himself in and through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ”. This is what GAFCON is all about.